9 May 1864, 150 years ago in the North Sea, a Danish squadron defeated the Austrian navy in the Battle of Helgoland (or Heligoland) during the last engagement of wooden warships and the last Danish fleet action.
“Men, there are the Austrians. Now we will meet them. I trust that we will fight like our brave comrades at Dybboel" (Orlogskaptajn Edouard Suenson)
|Danish painer Christian Mølsted’s (1862-1930) imagination of the gunners of the frigate “Niels Juel” celebrating their success against the “Schwarzenberg” called “Ombord på frigatten "Niels Juel" under slaget ved Helgoland 9. maj 1864” (1898)|
The only advantage beyond sheer tenacity Denmark could bring into effect against the continental major powers Austria and Prussia during the mess that became known as the Second War of Schleswig was a superiority at sea. Both allies weren’t exactly known as thalassocracies and what the Danes could do was blockading the Prussian ports. The Austrians had at least something resembling a deep sea fleet at their disposal and a small squadron of two screw frigates and a gunboat under the command of Wilhelm von Tegetthoff was ordered from the Mediterranean to the North Sea in March 1864, a few weeks after the outbreak of the war. The gunboat “Seehund” was lost en route in the English Channel, three Prussian paddle steamers joined Tegethoff off Texel and the allies steamed onwards to challenge the Danish squadron made up of two new screw frigates and a screw corvette that had so far dominated the Frisian waters.
|The Climax of the Battle of Heligoland with the burning Austrian flagship "Schwarzenberg"in the foreground, as imagined by the Danish painter Johan Carl Neumann (1833 - 1891)|
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